Are you climbing the right wall?
We need both, but if you’re a manager you can strive to be a great leader through your actions. If you’re a “leader” do you demonstrate your leadership through your actions. Lots of people spend their lives climbing a ladder — and then they get to the top of the wrong wall. Most weak organizations are over-managed and under-led. Their managers accomplish the wrong things beautifully and efficiently. They climb the wrong wall.
Both a manager and a leader may know the business well. But the leader must know it better and in a different way. He/She must grasp the essential facts and the underlying forces that determine the past and present trends in the business, so that he/she can generate a vision and a strategy to bring about its future. One telling sign of a good leader is an honest attitude towards the facts, towards objective truth. A subjective leader obscures the facts for the sake of narrow self-interest, biased interest or prejudice.
Effective leaders continually ask questions, probing all levels of the organization for information, testing their own perceptions, and rechecking the facts. They talk to their constituents. They want to know what is working and what is not. They keep an open mind for serendipity to bring them the knowledge they need to know what is true. An important source of information for this sort of leader is knowledge of the failures and mistakes that are being made in their organization.
To survive in the twenty-first century, we need a new generation of leaders — leaders, not managers. The distinction is an important one. Leaders conquer the context — the turbulent, ambiguous surroundings that sometimes seem to conspire against us and will surely suffocate us if we let them — while managers surrender to it.
Leaders investigate reality, taking in the pertinent factors and analyzing them carefully. On this basis they produce visions, concepts, plans, and programs. Managers adopt the truth from others and implement it without probing for the facts that reveal reality.
There is profound difference — a gap — between leaders and managers. A good manager does things right. A leader does the right things. Doing the right things implies a goal, a direction, an objective, a vision, a dream, a path, a reach and sometimes not very popular.
Managing is about efficiency. Leading is about effectiveness. Managing is about how. Leading is about what and why. Management is about systems, controls, procedures, policies, and structure. Leadership is about trust — about people.
Leadership is about innovating and initiating. Management is about copying, about managing the status quo. Leadership is creative, adaptive, and agile. Leadership looks at the horizon, not just the bottom line.
Leaders base their vision, their appeal to others, and their integrity on reality, on the facts, on a careful estimate of the forces at play, and on the trends and contradictions. They develop the means for changing the original balance of forces so that their vision can be realized.